Ramsar Eastern and Southern Africa   Subregional Meeting, 2001 -- Summary report


Ramsar Eastern & Southern Africa Subregional Meeting, Lusaka, Zambia, 12-14 November 2001

 Eastern and Southern Africa Subregional Meeting on the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

Lusaka, Zambia, 12-14 November 2001


Opening session

1. The opening session began with welcoming remarks by the Chair of the meeting, Mrs. E. Chiyenge, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of the Republic of Zambia. She highlighted the importance of wetlands and the implementation of the Convention in Zambia.

2. The Regional Representative and Vice Chair of the Ramsar Standing Committee, Mr. Paul Mafabi, outlined the achievements towards implementation of the Convention in the subregion and the challenges ahead.

3. The Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention, Mr. Delmar Blasco, highlighted the need for more resources, both human and financial, to facilitate implementation of the Convention by establishing a Convention presence in the regions. He also highlighted the need to integrate wetland issues into the overall sustainable development effort and to use wetland as valuable assets for poverty eradication and socio-economic development.

4. The meeting was officially opened by the Hon Abel Chambeshi, Minister of Lands of the Republic of Zambia, who expressed his gratitude to the Ramsar Bureau for choosing Lusaka as the venue for the subregional meeting. He also expressed gratitude to the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) for the financial support which facilitated the holding of the meeting. He reaffirmed Zambia’s commitment towards implementing the Convention and highlighted some of the achievements, which include the formulation of a national wetlands policy, the formation of the National Wetland Steering Committee, and designation in the near future of additional Ramsar sites. He also highlighted some of the threats to wetlands, including invasive species.

Overview of the implementation of the Convention in Africa

5. The Regional Coordinator for Africa, Mr. Anada Tiega of the Ramsar Bureau, and the Regional Representative in the Standing Committee, Mr Paul Mafabi, outlined the achievements and major challenges towards the implementation of the convention in the subregion.


6. The major achievements can be summarised as follows:

  • Increased membership: Mauritius has recently joined the Convention and Burundi is finalizing the formalities with UNESCO as the Depositary (but already implementing the Convention)
  • Increased Ramsar site designations, confirmed or in the process
  • Development of national wetland policies and strategies, finalized or in the process
  • Development and implementation of management plans, already in place or being prepared
  • Establishment of coordination mechanisms at national level, including National Ramsar/Wetlands Committees
  • Progress in capacity building in some countries
  • Dialogue with other conventions


7. The main challenges still prevailing include:

  • Accession to the Convention of the remaining countries in the subregion
  • Need for further policy development and implementation
  • Adoption of legislative frameworks to allow full implementation of the Convention
  • Communication within the region
  • Conflicting sectoral policies
  • Better knowledge of wetland values
  • Further increasing the profile of the Convention so as to ensure more political support for wetland conservation and wise use.

8. The meeting considered that the Convention should seek to establish a presence in the subregion as the next step in its development.


9. A number of opportunities for improving the implementation of the Convention were identified as follows:

  • Integrating wetland issues into river basin management through the work of river basin organizations
  • Existing Ramsar tools, including the guidelines to help implement the various provisions of the Convention
  • Joint initiatives with other conventions, such as the Joint Work Plan with CBD, including the River Basin Initiative
  • More guidelines are in preparation to be considered by COP8

10. Feedback is expected from Contracting Parties following the use of the Ramsar tools, including the various guidelines and reporting format which should serve as a planning tool.


11. Short presentations were made by Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia on targets and major achievements in the implementation of the Conventions Work Plan 2000-2002 and resolutions adopted by Ramsar COP7. Major achievements made by these countries include:

  • Most countries have designated more than one Ramsar Site since the last COP.
  • Most countries are in the processes of developing or reviewing wetland policies and legislation. South Africa is preparing specific legislation to enable full Ramsar implementation, including designation of Ramsar sites that are not protected areas.
  • Most countries have National Ramsar/Wetlands Committees and Kenya is considering establishing a broader Kenya Wetlands Forum.
  • Most have developed or are in the process of developing management plans for their Ramsar sites.
  • Botswana is encouraging Angola to join the Convention.
  • For those countries with environmental legislation, EIA has been incorporated in the legislation.
  • Previous efforts in designation of Ramsar Sites have been directed at designating protected areas, as observed in Kenya, South Africa and Zambia. However, a focus to designating unprotected wetlands as Ramsar sites is gaining momentum.
  • Invasive species (plants and animals) are a problem in all countries, and considerable resources are being required to fight the menace.
  • Most countries are in the process of or are planning to undertake inventories.
  • Most countries are involving local communities at the lowest appropriate level and other sectors in wetlands conservation and management through formation of management committees.
  • A new training programme for wetland mangers has been established at the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute.
  • Kenya has established systematic monitoring of five wetland sites. Other countries are in different stages of planning for monitoring of wetlands.

12. From these presentations, the following challenges where identified:

  • The need to mainstream wetland issues.
  • To put policies into practice.
  • How to effectively enforce environmental legislation.
  • All countries considered awareness and education as important aspects in increasing the level of understanding of wetland issues and change of behaviour.
  • Cross-sectoral cooperation in implementing the wise use principle.
  • How to balance development activities and wise use.
  • How to enhance local communities’ livelihoods as an incentive to wetlands management.

13. The issues raised during discussions included:

  • There is a need to have an overall legislation for management of wetlands.
  • There is a need to emphasise stakeholder’s involvement in wetland management, in particular the local communities and the private sector, including using incentives to do so.
  • There is a need to build capacity in terms of training and funding for wetland management.
  • There is a need to reinforce education and public awareness in wetland management.
  • The need to harmonise existing policies and legislations
  • The huge costs of combating alien invasive species in wetlands constitutes a high priority to be addressed.
  • Legal status of the Convention and Ramsar Sites in Contracting Parties: need for specific enabling legislation for the implementation of the Ramsar Convention.

14. In addition, the following issues were raised:

  • Opportunities were highlighted by CPs, such as existing conducive legal and political systems, existing Village Land Act, increasing awareness issue, existing mechanisms like SADC and EAC and the systems, like the Nile Basin, Zambezi and Lake Victoria mechanisms, for synergies to strengthen and develop strategies on those opportunities.
  • Water for maintaining the ecological character of wetlands in terms of the volume of water and the methodologies on water allocation are increasingly being considered in the Ramsar debate.

Joint implementation of environment-related conventions

15. A case study was presented by Zambia and Uganda on the major achievements and emerging opportunities for joint implementation of environment-related conventions, with particular focus on CBD, CCD, UNFCCC, and Ramsar. CITES and CMS were also considered relevant to Ramsar’s work. Arising from the presentations, the following issues were identified as possible areas of synergy:

  • Sustainable management or wise use of natural resources
  • Legislation and policy framework
  • Public awareness and participation
  • Capacity building and training
  • Access to and transfer of appropriate technology
  • Traditional and local technology
  • Economic and social incentives
  • Exchange of information and data
  • Environmental Impact Assessments/Studies
  • Planning, resource inventory, monitoring and reporting
  • Taking advantage of existing funding mechanisms for wetland conservation

Presentation of the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008

16. The Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention made an introductory presentation of the draft Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008, outlining the steps taken so far to prepare a new strategic plan to be adopted by COP8. Participants raised the following issues to be considered for incorporation in the final draft:

  • Research to focus on tropical wetlands in order to build the knowledge base and provide information for management. Kenya to follow up with a specific proposal for inclusion in the draft strategic plan. IUCN offered technical support in the elaboration of research objectives.
  • Inclusion of more measurable and quantifiable indicators in the proposed actions.
  • Incentives for good practices by private sector such as ISO certification and the need to be involved so as to give them a high profile.
  • Inclusion of a table to summarise the main objectives and strategic actions.
  • Ecological monitoring of wetlands.
  • An action seeking to develop guidelines for prevention of and responses to emergencies and disasters, in cooperation with the secretariat of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

17. It was noted that countries would be invited to look at the current draft of the strategic plan and draw national targets which will form the basis for global targets. Contracting Parties were encouraged to submit further comments to the Ramsar Bureau before 30 November 2001.

Ramsar video

18. The participants appreciated the Ramsar video as a relevant documentary especially in raising awareness of policy makers, and they felt that it should be disseminated as widely as possible. It was suggested that countries use this as a basis to create a similar tool in local languages. The Ramsar Bureau will explore the possibility of translating it into other major languages.

COP8 Technical Sessions:

19. The Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention outlined the procedure for the next COP technical sessions. Five technical sessions are planned. The procedure for adoption of proposals from the technical sessions by the CP would be: Short presentations in the plenary followed by regional group sessions. The rapporteurs of the four groups will compare notes and amend documents as necessary, before they are presented to the plenary of the COP for consideration and adoption.

Conclusions concerning the issues to be considered in the Technical Sessions

20. Technical session 1: Wetlands: Major challenges and emerging opportunities in the new century.

  • In the Guidelines on water allocation, consideration should be given to the involvement of all stakeholders and consequently, before the adoption by the COP, CPs should consult the water authorities since most of them do not consider the environment as being a recipient of water allocation, except in South Africa.
  • Water balance studies have not been done, thus it is still difficult to determine who should take how much. The aspect of modelling in determining water balance is important.
  • The Guidelines should not only be concerned with water scarcity in wetlands but also with the excess of water, which sometimes may affect the good functioning of them.
  • The issue of transboundary and shared water resources is to be considered before considering allocations; in this regard it is important to make cross reference with the Ramsar Guidelines on international cooperation on shared wetlands and water resources.

21. Technical session 2: Wetland inventory and assessment.

  • The meeting agreed on the steps for wetland inventories and assessment as specified in the proposed Framework.
  • The identification of appropriate indicators for wetland assessment should be done in partnership with other relevant conventions such as the CBD, the UNCCD, and other institutions working on this matter. In tropical areas, research is needed especially on bio-indicators.
  • However, indicators should be relevant to the local situation.
  • The end product of the inventory should determine what is to be done; for instance, a Wetland Policy could be developed as a result of the use of the inventory results. If the policy is in place, the review may be necessary to take into consideration what can be done from the assets, which is of political interest.

22. Technical session 3: Practical steps for applying the Vision for the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

  • It was suggested to encourage countries to designate additional Ramsar sites before COP8, without advocating a rushed process that could affect the necessary, and some times very long, consultation processes with stakeholders.
  • However, it was highly recommended to consider any possible technical and financial support so as to facilitate the designation process, including the need for consultation of all stakeholders.
  • There is also a need to consider protected vis-à-vis non-protected Ramsar sites, since some countries need a clear definition of the legal status of the proposed wetland before designation.
  • COP8 should consider taking a decision to add to the Ramsar List, after the Ramsar sites already designated by each Party, the sites that countries are considering for listing and which have been formally communicated to the Ramsar Bureau. The date of the formal communication should appear on the List.
  • When a shared wetland has been designated as a Ramsar site by one or more riparian countries, the relevant Contracting Party(ies) should do their utmost, with the support of the Ramsar Bureau, to encourage designation by the other riparian country(ies).

23. Technical issue 4: Managing wetlands for sustainable use: lessons learned and new perspectives.

  • Four guidelines will be proposed, namely on management planning, global action on peatlands, use of the Report of the World Commission on Dams, and invasive species.
  • IUCN guidelines on invasive species are under consideration for adoption as CBD guidelines. It was considered important that these guidelines be broadened to address the particular requirements of wetland systems.

24. Management planning

  • Management planning is a dynamic process and therefore the plan should be regularly reviewed to take into account emerging developments. An implementing agency should be identified.
  • Consultation of stakeholders is an important step in the development of management plans.

25. For transboundary sites, the following stakeholders should be considered and included:

    • Leaders other than the implementers of the management plan, such as the subregional institutions, e.g. EAC, SADC
    • Facilitators. Institution that can play this role, like international NGOs that are official Ramsar partners.
    • The drivers. Those who give inputs and can exert pressure. These are donors.
    • The champions, who see the big picture.
    • The implementers.
  • Consideration should be given to socio-economic factors. In this respect appendix 2 of the current draft should be reviewed so that it is incorporated into the main text of the guidelines.
  • The management planning process is closely linked very well with the inventory, as information generated in the inventory is necessary in the planning.
  • The process should be participatory and demand driven so to ensure ownership of the management plan.
  • There is a need to prioritise actions in the plan. The Kampala matrix provides some guidance for preparation of the plan.
  • Optimum resource use must be defined according to what the stakeholders have agreed.
  • The management planning process is an opportunity for testing the ecosystem approach to natural resource management.
  • The issue of funding for the management planning process needs to be considered in order to ensure sustainability.

26. Technical session 5: Cultural aspects of wetlands as a tool for their conservation and sustainable use

  • It was noted that cultural issues are very important in the implementation of the Convention, given that human activities have centred around wetlands.
  • It was noted that the South American Ramsar Regional Meeting has decided to request consideration by the Standing Committee to submit a proposal to COP8 to include socio-economic and cultural issues in the Criteria for designation of wetlands for the Ramsar List. It was decided that Uganda, as Regional Representative in the SC, should contact Argentina, also a Regional Representative, with a view to making a joint request to the SC.

National Report Format

27. This topic was introduced by Mr. Anada Tiéga, Regional Coordinator for Africa at the Ramsar Bureau. In this introduction an emphasis was placed upon the functions of this tool along with the expectations of the Ramsar Bureau from Contracting Parties:

  • This national reporting format is intended to provide Contracting Parties with a checklist of actions seen as desirable if they are to implement the Convention fully.
  • Therefore Contracting Parties were urged to adopt this format as a comprehensive planning tool and to use it to identify gaps and areas of high priority for actions against the Work Plan 200-2002.
  • The use of the format should include the setting of realistic national targets

28. The introduction to this topic was also intended to find out from the participants how useful the National Report Format was. The presenter insisted on the fact that the Ramsar Administrative Authority must involve all relevant institutions in using this tool for planning, monitoring, and reporting, including the adoption of national targets.

29. Most Contracting Parties found that the operational structure of the current electronic version of the National Report Format is a good tool for the following reasons:

  • it sets the standard for reporting;
  • it enables the Convention to compare and to draw an overview of the achievements, the challenges and the way forward at national, regional and global levels;
  • it gives the opportunity to involve all relevant institutions, including the members of the Ramsar/Wetland Committees where they exist;
  • it provides a framework for collective action and a feedback to decision-makers; and
  • overall, the use of this operational structure promotes participation from different players at national level when it is considered as a planning and monitoring tool for wetland conservation and wise use.

30. However the following negative aspects of the format have to be considered in order to improve its efficiency:

  • it takes time to explain the whole format before it is understood and endorsed at higher levels;
  • there are many other things that are not easy to report within this operational structure;
  • the format is too restrictive in certain areas where the answers are not exactly yes or no;
  • more room should be provided for additional comments; and
  • overall the new format brings up new challenges and stronger requirements from Contracting Parties.

The inter-related aspects of the Ramsar handbooks

31. An introductory presentation was made by Mr. Tiéga. The presenter started by bringing to mind the Mission of the Ramsar Convention, which is the "conservation and wise use of wetland by national action and international cooperation as a means for achieving sustainable development throughout the world".

32. A set of tools has been developed to help various players achieve this mission. The Contracting Parties deliver the Convention through three pillars: Wise use of all wetlands, Designation and adequate management of Ramsar sites, and International cooperation.

33. The Ramsar "Toolkit" comprises eight manuals that bring together the guidelines so far adopted by the Conference of the Parties on policy formulation and implementation; review of law and institutions; reinforcement of the participation of local people; Ramsar site selection and management planning; communication, education and public awareness; integration of wetland conservation and wise use into river basin management; and international cooperation.

34. The main points of the introductory presentation were:

  • users of the guidelines should be aware that these tools are not separate entities. Rather they are facets of a holistic response to the various needs for the overall harmonised implementation of the Convention;
  • the implementation of the Convention is a broad continuum of policy and strategies along with operational tools that require capacity development;
  • the responses for capacity development are taking place within this broad continuum, using a set of complementary guidelines;
  • any particular set of guidelines should be used in combination with the other guidelines at different points of the process; and
  • the guidelines support open processes of teaching and learning so as to facilitate the complementary activities that are undertaken by multiple players.

35. To illustrate the strong links between the Ramsar manuals, the Guidelines for integrating wetland conservation and wise use into river basin management were taken as an example:

  • these guidelines involve at least five major steps; and
  • each step calls for a number of actions that bring in a combination of guidelines to be used.

36. For instance, in the process of integrating wetland conservation and wise use into river basin management, one of the steps to be taken is: "To minimise the impact of land use and development projects on wetlands". This step alone involves the following actions which in turn bring in the use of the following relevant guidelines:

  • develop integrated land use plans (bring together the guidelines for communication, education and public awareness, reinforcing community participation, management planning). It also involve the guidelines for integrated coastal zone management and the action plan on peatlands which are currently under preparation for consideration by COP8;
  • enforce regulations to control land use (bring together the guidelines for reinforcing community participation, reviewing laws and institutions, communication, education and public awareness); and
  • carry out environmental impact assessment (EIA) and cost benefits analysis (CBA) studies in consultation with stakeholders (this brings together the guidelines on environmental impact assessment and risk assessment). It even implies the need to have additional guidelines for economic valuation of wetlands and for wetland inventory. The guidelines on wetland inventory are under preparation for consideration by CO8.

37. The guidelines for designing and implementing wetland policy cover 12 steps and each step calls for the use of other guidelines in the framework of the Ramsar Convention.

38. The main conclusions of the discussion on this topic were:

  • the Ramsar guidelines are useful tools because they are relevant, complementary and applicable to different situations (they have been drawn from case studies from all over the world);
  • the guidelines help interpret the principles of the Convention and the resolutions of the Conference of the Parties; and
  • the guidelines provide direction and advice to all types of players.

39. However, in order to make these guidelines more efficient some weaknesses must be addressed through updated materials that integrate new lessons learned and new available expertise. In this regard the meeting welcomed the review of the guidelines on management planning

International Cooperation

40. Under this topic short presentations were made by the following participants on the existing subregional frameworks for international cooperation in Eastern and Southern Africa:

  • General introduction, by Mr. Anderson Koyo, Kenya Wildlife Service, on Frameworks for Cooperation in Eastern and Southern Africa
  • Role of the Permanent Okavango River Basin Commission (OKACOM), by Mr. David Aniku from Botswana
  • Role of some IUCN projects in the framework of the Eastern African Community, by Dr. Geoffrey Howard from IUCN-EARO
  • Role of some projects in the framework of Lake Tanganyika Basin, by Ms. Kelly West from IUCN-EARO
  • Practical use of the WWF eco-region concept in the Lake Malawi/Nyasa/Niassa, by Mr. Jonas Chafota, from WWF SARPO
  • Role of the Nile Basin Initiative, by Mr. Sylvester P. M. Kiai, from Kenya, Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed, from Egypt, and Dr. Geoffrey Howard
  • The 10-year, $25 billion United Nations System-wide Special Initiative on Africa launched in 1966, was mentioned by Mr. John Dini, from South Africa.

41. In addition, Mr. Denis Landenbergue from WWF International Headquarters made a presentation on WWF’s Living Waters Programme

42. The meeting discussed how the existing frameworks on economic development and water management could be used to enhance wetland and catchment conservation and wise use. The following conclusions summarise the results of the discussion:

  • The Ramsar Bureau and Contracting Parties appreciate the fruitful contribution of the Convention’s International Organization Partners, namely BirdLife International, IUCN – The World Conservation Union, Wetlands International, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and encourage their continued efforts on strategic planning and practical actions that enhance wetland conservation and wise use.
  • In this regard it was suggested that IUCN and WWF International enhance their partnership with the existing subregional frameworks, including economic development institutions and river/lakes organizations. Many actions on wetlands have to be considered under the umbrella of subregional organizations such as the SADC, the EAC, the Nile Basin Initiative, and others.
  • The Ramsar Bureau will continue to support initiatives such as the one on the Lake Malawi Nyasa/Niassa coordinated by WWF-SARPO with a view to establishing a new collaborative framework for this lake.
  • The meeting encourages WWF-SARPO to continue facilitating the process that strengthens partnership between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania on the shared lake.
  • The meeting notes that most of the major aquatic ecosystems in Eastern and Southern Africa are on shared catchments. Therefore subregional cooperation on the ecosystem approach is needed for a long-term management of the systems.
  • The Ramsar Forum (an electronic mailing list for exchanges on wetland issues) could be replicated at subregional level to reinforce communication and exchange of experience.
  • The meeting appreciated the fact that many ongoing programmes and activities under the existing subregional frameworks are contributing to the implementation of the Ramsar Convention.
  • It is time for each Ramsar Contracting Party to assess the various achievements under these subregional institutions and to increase the presence of Ramsar in all relevant initiatives.

43. Ramsar has a strong interest on river/lake basin organisations and hopes to establish close working relationships with these institutions in the framework the of the joint initiative between Ramsar and CBD called the "River Basin Initiative". Formal linkages between Ramsar and river/lake organizations will strengthen the role of these institutions in the implementation of the Convention. The Ramsar Bureau appreciates the fact that more and more collaborative work is underway with national and subregional institutions dealing with water issues. In this regard, it will be extremely important for Ramsar to take part in the Nile Basin Initiative. The Secretary General raised the possibility of designating a "Ramsar Envoy", on an honorary basis, to represent the Convention in the Initiative. This expert should be from one of the 10 member states of the Nile Basin Initiative. The issue will be brought to the next Standing Committee meeting for consideration. This process is expected to encourage and accelerate the accession of the five countries in the Nile Basin which have yet to become Ramsar Contracting Parties. A meeting is planned from 28-31 January 2002 in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss further collaborative work on the shared vision and the associated programmes. Ramsar is invited to participate in this meeting.

-- Financial support for the meeting was generously provided by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management. 

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